Category Archives: America

Best Friend Test: Take at Your Own Risk

21 Jump Street: best bros

21 Jump Street: best bros

I have plenty of good friends. I thank God that I have always had good friends throughout my life to be there for me—except during middle school and that sucked. However, because of how much middle school absolutely sucked, I am eternally grateful for all the friends that God has blessed me with, especially the ones that were there for me when I needed them the most in very challenging phases of my life (that’s you Andrew during high school, and you Tim during undergrad).

However, the other day I was thinking about what kind of test I would give someone who would like to apply to be one of my best friends. Well, it isn’t perfect but here are some questions I would include in a test for someone applying to be a best friend (talk about being a borderline narcissist):

BEWARE: If you are not a nerd, or have no sense of appreciation for nerdy and geeky stuff, you should stop reading and go to the gym…or something.

1. If there was to be a duel between Lord Voldemort, from the Harry Potter series, in his fully restored form, and Darth Sidious aka Emperor Palpatine, the Dark Lord of the Sith, who would come out of that battle victorious? Please expand on your answer.

2. One of your other, more ignorant friends makes the following statement: “Man, I love Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT and I truly believe that GT is the true end to the Dragon Ball series.” How do you respond to this?

3. What is the greatest branch in the United States military? Actually never mind that. Let’s be more specific. What is the greatest branch within the United States Army? BONUS POINTS if you can tell me why God loves this branch the most?

4. If you had to name one video game whose multiplayer experience revolutionized multiplayer gaming forever, which game would you pick? [Hint: If you are about to pick a game published on a PlayStation system you are INCORRECT—just give up now]

5. Back to Star Wars [Knowledge of Expanded Universe is a must]. Name the only two characters in the Star Wars universe to start out in the Light side of the Force, go to the Dark side, become full “Darths” of the Sith, and then redeem themselves by coming back to the light? You may research this question for ½ credit.

6. What is the greatest musical that was turned into movie that was also a musical? You will lose much respect if you get this one wrong.

7. Yes or No. Did you cry at any point in the last 45 minutes of Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King?

8. What is the greatest ethnic/national cuisine? For half the credit you can answer what is the second greatest ethnic/national cuisine?

9. What is the greatest country on the Earth? For ½ credit, what is the most evil country on Earth?

10. Do you agree with the final Confederate charge at the Battle of Gettysburg being named after General Pickett (“Pickett’s Charge”) or are you of the opinion that it should be “Pettigrew’s Charge” since the North Carolinians at Gettysburg, under General Pettigrew, outnumbered the Virginians under General Pickett at the very same charge? State your case.

11. Who was/is the greatest president in American history? This one is a deal-breaker.

12. Who was the greatest statesman in world history? Even if you are wrong, you may receive partial credit if you defend your answer well.

13. Do you lose all control and laugh out loud when you watch the movie “21 Jump Street” starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum? Do you have a soul?

TIE-BREAKER [you always need a tie-breaker]: What is my favorite color?

I will release the correct answers to these questions next week (or later this week if I get the time).

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The Wars on the Big Screen: 7 years of Hollywood & GWOT

About two weeks ago my wife mentioned that there was a movie called “Lone Survivor” coming out. She mentioned it to me for two reasons: (1) I love Mark Wahlberg (he is the man), and (2) its a film inspired by a book that I’ve read and own which inspired the film. The film and book tell the story of a real Navy SEAL team mission into Afghanistan in the early phases of the war. So, once I knew the film was coming out soon, I went ahead an added the release date to my calendar, just to remind myself to go watch in case I miss the marketing campaign for it.

Thinking about this film got my mind on a thought tangent. In my head, I started thinking about all the films I had watched that were connected and related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. I realized that the list was long enough to be worth writing down. I ended up diving into Wikipedia and Google tracking down names, release years, etc. I became fascinated by the fact that the extensive list I put together were all films that wouldn’t have existed had the Iraq and Afghanistan wars not happened, which in part are by-products (one could argue) of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

I decided to cut the list down to films released by major American studios with at least some sense of star casting. Why do this? Well, my hypothesis became that we can get a better sense of how much impact the Global War on Terror (GWOT) has had on the film industry by the willingness of major studios and actors to be invest, produce, and act in such film projects. My hypothesis may be flawed, but the truth is that the market for documentaries, B-movies, and foreign films is a much more selective market than what a major American studio is aiming when they invest into a blockbuster.

I decided to break down the list into four categories. Even though I may have missed a few films here and there, this is the list I ended up with given the margins above:

Beginnings: These are films that deal directly and primarily with the events of 9/11 and the immediate impact. They may extent up to the beginnings of the War in Afghanistan. The only two films I have accounted for are the following and both were released in 2006:

WorldTradeCenter (2006)

United 93 (2006)

The Frontlines: These films have plots that put them right in the center of the firefight. They are very military-focused and war-centered. These films show us the minds, souls, and actions of the frontline war fighters. Zero Dark Thirty almost didn’t make it in this category but the fact that OBL is the focus of the film and the depiction of the special operations raid made it “frontline” enough for me. I excluded Act of Valor because it didn’t fit any of my margins above:

The Hurt Locker (2008)

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

Lone Survivor (2014)

The Homefront: These are films impacted by the war and the deployment of troops. Some of them are comedies; some are love films. Some are psychological thrillers; some are political thrillers. And there are others which are none of the previously mentioned. I debated about including some of these but this is the final list I felt comfortable with:

Home of the Brave (2006)

Lions for Lambs (2007)

In the Valley of Elah (2007)

Grace is Gone (2007)

Stop-Loss (2008)

Brothers (2009)

The Messenger (2009)

Taking Chance (2009)

Dear John (2010)

Warrior (2011)

The Lucky One (2012)

The Extension: In many ways, these are the most vague of the films inspired by the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These films could have been made without the mentioned events taking place; however, the writers decided to make the Global War on Terror (GWOT) crucial parts of the plots. These films are inspired by the much wider theatre of operations that the GWOT includes. Zero Dark Thirty could have fallen under this category but I stated above why it didn’t:

The Kingdom (2007)

Body of Lies (2008)

Rendition (2007)

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)

Green Zone (2010)

Fair Game (2010)

I found it interesting that no major blockbuster is released until 2006 when United 93 and World Trade Center come out in theatres. For those who have followed the wars in detail, you will connect 2006 with one of the toughest and worst years for the troops in Iraq and one of the toughest times back home for the Bush administration and the economy. However, it isn’t until 2008 that a blockbuster is released that dealt directly with combat operations, The Hurt Locker, which ended up winning the Oscar for Best Film over Avatar (thank God). Even though the B-movie market is full of movies about combat ops in Iraq/Stan, the major studios seemed to have refrained from such projects for the most part, possibly not knowing if such films would succeed or fail.

Finally, the Homefront and Extension films haven’t been shy about exploring the war on terror as a topic for inspiration. My conclusion is that these films, even though inspired by the wars, deal with themes and concepts that can exist and do outside the wars. The wars and the deployments are catalysts for the plots and settings that are used, but they aren’t the plots and setting themselves.

You can easily find dozens and dozens of films about World War II, great ones and bad ones. Looking at this list makes me wonder whether we will see a deeper and different exploration of the Global War on Terror as the years go and the major combat operations draw to an end in Afghanistan a year from now.  I welcome any of your thoughts and ideas regarding this post. Thank you for reading.

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Good-bye NFL; Welcome to the National Tag League

activities-flag-football

That’s right. Good-bye National Football League; the National Tag League now takes center stage. Well, maybe not quite yet, but that seems to be the future of America’s favorite sport and passion. Forget politics and religion; football is where it’s at.

As the NFL and its top deity, Roger Goddell, continue to crack down on illegal hits and tackles up and down the league, fully aware that most players can’t even tell the difference between legal and illegal hits most of the time, we may soon be watching the most exciting form of tag ever, except on national television and covered by ESPN.

We may as well switch over to being a Rugby Football nation, ladies and gentlemen, because as the NFL tries to cover its behind from massive lawsuits (which include former players, family members, among others), the sport we love and crave for year-long may very soon be no longer familiar to most of us. We may find ourselves telling our future children and grandchildren of that once-sport where grown men proved their toughness and roughness on the field instead whatever Mr. Goddell is trying to make of professional football.
At the end of the day, when a player decides to play football, they have to be made fully aware of all the dangers that the sport involves. Similarly to the way we tell those joining the Marines or the Army that they may get blown up by IEDs in war, football players must know that there are repercussions for the glory and money found in pro-football. That is a must. However, once the player is aware of the facts and signs that contract, it is all on the line. This doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be rules or regulations to how much violence takes place on the field. However, football is football, and if you don’t want people to head-tackle each other, then take the helmets away (…like in Rugby) and let’s see what happens then. Yeah, there may be a few deaths at first, but they will learn the lessons soon enough.

Are we keeping the helmets? Ah, okay. Then I guess we will continue to expect and love the madness and passion that comes with the violence of football. Football is incredible because it is fuel by the rawness and toughness that our primal nature calls for. Can we go out there and pick fights on the street? We can, but you end up in prison. So what do we do? We make sports where violence can be released in limited ways—ex. Football, rugby, mixed martial arts, boxing, wrestling, etc.
Regulate hitting all you want, but what you may end up doing is killing the sport. How will Roger Goddell feel the day that his bucks begin to drain out? You think people are going to pay millions of dollars for tag or flag football? No way, I can play that with my church or college buds—no one is paying a single cent for that product. I may as well watch and play some Rugby (no insult against Rugby; I’m just saying).

So, the course is set. As long as we continue down this hypocritical, ass-covering path we are taking, we are set on the death of football as we know it. Heck, if it ever gets to that point, I may just start enjoying soccer: wouldn’t that be crazy?
P.S: If you are interested in learning about Rugby, then I have major respect for you. Check the following links to get started:

USA Rugby
Rugby Union

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BCS Championship: What We Watched Last Night was a Disgrace

Roll Tide. 'nuff said.

Roll Tide. ’nuff said.

I know it’s overkill by now, but if ESPN is talking about it, then it is still fair game. I will get straight to the point. Notre Dame did not belong in Miami last night. They didn’t. The BCS rankings failed us. The AP Poll failed us. The Coaches’ Poll failed us. The USA Today Poll failed us.

Alabama. Georgia. Texas A&M. South Carolina. Heck, even Florida. Half the SEC could have steamrolled over the Irish last night. Manti Te’o fell apart. Golson fell apart. Brian Kelly fell apart. I called it months ago, and no one believed me. I said it: Notre Dame didn’t belong. How about next time we put someone No. 1 in the country and we send them to a national championship, we stop wasting our time.

But I get it, you are stuck with Alabama and Notre Dame in the BCS Championship Game and you have to sell the game, so what do you do? You sell the game. You are ESPN and you tell the whole world that the Fighting Irish have a chance, that they can push through, and that they can overcome the dark empire of Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. Wow was America fooled.  Let me rephrase that: the millions of casual football fans were fooled, because the hardcore fanatics that sat weekend through weekend watching Alabama tear apart teams the whole season, we knew what was going to happen. We didn’t need a prophet. We didn’t need magic or some broker telling us that Alabama was going to lay a smack down on Notre Dame. How could they not? They are Alabama, they lost to God’s gift to football (Johnny Manziel), and no one else. So Notre Dame went undefeated…so what?

I don’t know if something broke in the system this year. I don’t know if people or computers got jacked up to the point Notre Dame, even after struggling in games with BYU and Pittsburgh, somehow managed to end up No. 1. I get it, there were undefeated and they beat Stanford and a couple other tough guys. But did anyone pay attention to performance? Are you seriously telling me that Notre Dame was a better team than LSU? Alabama? Oregon? Georgia? Heck, Texas A&M?

I am seriously pissed off because when Alabama and Georgia went head to head a month ago, I called it and no one believed me. I stated that Alabama vs. Georgia would be a better game than Alabama vs. Notre Dame because Notre Dame couldn’t handle the tidal wave. They were mismatched; they were out skilled; they were out played, big time.

Knowing this, why did I watch all 4 hours of game coverage last night? Because I wanted to see with my own two eyes, LIVE, as Alabama ripped Notre Dame apart. I wanted to see it because it was going to be glorious, and glorious it was. The entire SEC exploded into laughter last night. Even Ohio State, in their little dark corner of the world, couldn’t help but smile at a Notre Dame team that looked like Division 1-AA last night.

Yes, I know that last line was harsh and obviously not true, but I can’t help but laugh at what a sorry performance that was. But Alabama’s beautiful running game and tough defense made it a game worth watching. Alabama came through a delivered a championship caliber game. The Tide came to Miami with artillery, infantry, and cavalry ready to fight. And fight they did–yeah, they cause a massacre cause no one told them Notre Dame was fighting with sticks and stones. Damn.

I am done. I got it out of my system and I am done. I hope we have a better game next year. I love Alabama. I love watching their football because they always deliver a great game. But, I would love to see a team give them a fight for their legacy. Let’s deliver someone worthy next year.

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An American Childhood: Part One

People have told me before that I am good at telling stories. This has been the case regarding telling stories in person. I am still developing the ability of writing and communicating through words on a piece of paper or screen. I tend to pack my writing with so much emotion, at times, that it is sometimes hard to drain it of the emotion and read plainly what I am trying to express. Regardless, I consider myself a storyteller, so here is my story. This isn’t my whole story; I have decided to keep my toddler years to myself. This is my story in the United States, uncensored and plain; this is the story of my time in America.

I was brought to the United States at the age of ten. Looking back at that time, I don’t think I have ever fully understood why we left Puerto Rico. I know it was for more than one reason: my mom’s family lived here, it was less dangerous to live in the U.S., better schools, something like that. But I don’t think I was ever told the whole picture. Maybe that was for the best. Maybe I don’t need to know why we left Puerto Rico in the year 2000, when we moved to the tiny town of Stoneville in Rockingham County, North Carolina.

Life in Stoneville was slow and boring. There was maybe one or two stoplights in town, a tiny library, a tiny locally owned bank, and maybe two or three family-owned stores; at least, that how Stoneville was back then. Maybe they now have a Wal-Mart or a Target. Probably not.

Why did we move to Stoneville? We had family there and moving to a place where you already have people you know is easier for transition. It makes the moving a little less rough and automatically guarantees a community once you arrive. We lived for a few months in my uncle’s trailer home alongside his family. It was a couple of crazy months, but somehow we made it work.

To say that “we made it work” means that we didn’t kill each other. But a bunch of people living under one roof was pretty horrible. My cousin Edy and I, my uncle’s oldest son, had the very worst relationship: always competing, always out-performing, always hurting each other. I easily remember the many times they had to sit us down to be disciplined after going after each other. I believe it was a way to pour out the frustration of so many people forced to live together for an extended period of time.

But we made it work. I was a ten-year-old in a new world and I didn’t like it. I hated Stoneville. I hate it how small it was. I hate it how people behaved. I hate it that I had to live in a home with two families. I hate it school. Oh right, there was school too.

Within a month of arriving in the U.S., I was enrolled for my first year of middle school. My parents believed that if we moved here right after the fifth grade, that I would enter the sixth grade before kids began making friends in middle school. Wrong. Kids had already made friends in elementary school. From the get-go, they knew I was new, weird, and foreign. Fantastic, this was going to be great. It was pretty terrible, in part because I was new and foreign, and had an accent when I talked. It was also terrible because people in the middle school are the worst and meanest individuals in the world. That definitely didn’t help.

I still have no clue how I communicated with my teachers those first two years in the U.S. I didn’t really speak English even though I could sort of read it. I attended English Second Language and some program for Migrant Education children where they accelerated my transition into the culture and the language. But I have little recollection of how complicated communication was. All I remember is that I wasn’t the worst. There was always another Hispanic kid who was worst than you, and that made you by-default a translator for that other kid–that sucked.

And yet, somehow I made really good grades. In the sixth grade, my first school year in America, I made As and Bs and got a “Most Outstanding Student’ award at the end of the year. Suck on that gringos. But it wasn’t an easy year. The worst of it all were the bus rides to and from school. No one told me that bus 114 from Western Rockingham Middle School to the outskirts of Stoneville was the bus for the worst people in the world. Who thought that mixing middle schooler with high schoolers in the sam bus was a great idea? I don’t know, but riding the bus was definitely the worst part of my first year in America. It was in the bus that someone first cursed me out (that a lot of people cursed me out). It was riding the bus that I saw pornography for the first time when I stupid high schooler pushed it against my face, and it was also there the first place where I saw sexual harassment. Calling what I saw “sexual harassment” is a nice way of putting it. I don’t want to go into full detail of the things I witnessed there. This isn’t the time to open that can of rotten worms. Let’s just leave it at the fact that the school bus experience is not one I recommend to anyone.

However, I will add that the fact my cousin Edy and I rode the same bus was awesome. It was riding the bus together that I began to appreciate Edy more and more. The highlight of my school bus experience came in the form of a punch. Yup, this idiot whose name I can’t remember, though it would be funny to make me evacuate a seat in the bus by punching my arm over and over again. My cousin saw him do it and came to my rescue. A week later we were in the principal’s office and but my cousin and I didn’t get in trouble. As for the other guy and his little friend? I don’t know what happened with their lives. I know I am a Christian and I try not to think like this, however, deep inside I hope that ass hole is still rotting in Stoneville. I think he was the first person I ever truly hated. I hated that fucking piece of shit of a man.

After my first school year in the U.S., my mom decided that it was time to put some distance between us and my uncle’s family, something that I agreed with, even though I had finally begun to like Edy. I say that my mom decided this because my dad didn’t live with us at the time. My dad was still back in Puerto Rico working full-time, while we transitioned to living in the U.S. My dad didn’t move to American until I was halfway through the seventh grade and even then he was working in Raleigh, two hours away, so he stayed at my other uncle’s house in Durham, NC, during the week.

We moved from a terrible and sketchy trailer park in Stoneville to a less terrible apartment complex in Reidsville, North Carolina, which was about twenty to thirty miles east of Stoneville, but in the same county. My two years in Reidsville, where I finished middle school, also sucked even though for different reasons. However, my time in Reidsville is better left for another post.

Peace.

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